Tuesday, December 17, 2013

A Common Thread: Antique and Contemporary Mosaics at Istanbul Archaeological Museum

Ravenna Mosaics, a special exhibition at the Istanbul Archaeological Museum, sheds light on the robust and versatile tradition of tile work, an age-old medium.  It also raises persistent questions about the value of reproductions: because they remain in situ, these sixth-century Ravenna mosaics were painstakingly reproduced by the Academy of Fine Arts, Ravenna in the 1950s and have been traveling to various institutions ever since.  Questions of “authenticity” aside, the show creates a dialogue between these late-antique and contemporary mosaics: a short stroll from the Ravenna mosaics brings you to a collection of contemporary mosaics in an adjacent gallery, under the exhibition title Contemporary Mosaics.  Like their predecessors, they employ a system of color and rely on the texture and tactility of the tiles for effect; unlike their predecessors, they do not overtly bear religious and/or imperial iconography.  Roberta Grasso’s 25 Euros/HG Marshmallows, a delicious swirl of mosaic tiles, looks almost edible, while the Polish artist Matilda Tracewska takes a photographic approach, using grayscale tiles to articulate the effect of a photograph in her 2009 work, Istanbul.  Silvia Naddeo’s Byron’s Delight is another nod to consumption—a rendition of Luncheon on the Grass and an ode to the pleasures of British tea-time.

Various artists, Mosaics of Ravenna, Istanbul Archaeological Museum, Istanbul, through January 31, 2014.

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